City bulldozes popular bike trail after complaint
Deemed 'tripping hazards,' modest mounds removed from dirt track at Brantwood Park
Oliver Vyvey, 9, and his six-year-old sister Beatrice arrived at their favourite bike trail in Brantwood Park on Friday, eager to test their cycling skills on its thrilling bumps and dips.
Instead, they found a City of Ottawa work crew flattening the dirt track with a bulldozer.
The track in Old Ottawa East winds between trees at the southern end of the park near the Rideau River, just west of the popular Rideau River Nature Trail. For little cyclists, the fun lies in the four earthen hillocks. Or at least it used to.
"Their favourite thing during this COVID-19 period, when there hasn't been a lot of excitement in their young little lives, has been going to this bike track and having a little slice of adventure," said their mother, Melissa Vyvey.
When she saw her kids become upset at the sight of the bulldozer, Vyvey admits she teared up, too.
"Everybody's a little bit at the end of their rope," she said. "Their world has shrunk so much, and the little bits that they still have are so important to them."
City crew relented
Vyvey said the city workers told them someone had complained about the bike loop, and that they'd been sent to flatten the jumps. But then they, too, saw how it was upsetting the children.
"They were like, 'Oh gosh, we just feel awful about this. We can't do it," Vyvey said. The crew packed up and left after shaving down just two of the four bumps.
"So I think that they understood. And that was really, really nice."
In a response to CBC Tuesday afternoon, Jim Lethbridge, the city's area manager for parks and grounds, said a citizen complained that "alterations [to the trail] were making it difficult for some neighbours to use the park for exercise."
City staff examined the trail and "determined portions of the track were affecting the walkability of the pathway," Lethbridge said. "City staff have addressed the immediate tripping hazards."
He added "this work was not done due to concerns related to crowding and COVID-19."
Vyvey, a family doctor, said she doesn't understand why anyone would have complained about the bumps.
"It might be liability issues, but I have to say … as a family physician, I think it's really important for kids to have some of these spaces … that are a bit more wild," she said. "It's important for their development. It's important for their mental health, because they're not getting that kind of stimulation from their usual places like school and organized sports."
Vyvey said someone has already started to rebuild the two mounds that were flattened. At the urging of her son, she's launched a petition to leave the track alone. It has around 300 signatures.
Muthanna Subbaiah was among those who signed Vyvey's petition. His said his own kids, 12 and nine, have been using the dirt track for three years.
"They love it. Especially when I have to motivate them to go on a bike ride. That's a great motivator," he said.
Subbaiah said he can't imagine why anyone complained. "If anything, the city should be building it up a little bit and making it more fun."
Subbaiah has since reached out to the city councillor for the area, Shawn Menard, and has even offered to stand in the way of the bulldozer if it returns.
"This is a small thing, but it is a consistent pattern with the city," Subbaiah said. "It follows the pattern of, 'We don't care what you say, but we care about the one complaint we received."
Thanks. My kids love it too. It has been around a few years now. I assume the liability is no different to having a winter sledding hill in Windsor Park.—@muthannas
Menard said his own young son is a big fan of the trail.
"My son is 4 and just learned to bike on a regular bike. He handled the small trail with ease and had a great time doing it while distancing," Menard wrote to CBC in an email. "There is no way it should be dismantled. It's small dirt mounds (no higher than 9 inches)," or about 22 centimetres.